British Museum Discoveries

Date Posted: 15/09/2010

Those who have been following me on Twitter (twitter/navalhistoryguy) will know that I have spent most of the week  trying to hunt down some sketches relating to the Glorious Firsts of June (1794) and yesterday I found them!

They were made by a chap called Philip Jacques de Loutherbourg, a man of extraordinary talent who made his name designing visionary three-dimensional and moving theatre sets. He heard about Howe’s victory in June 1794 and headed down to Portsmouth with the rest of England to see the shattered ships and the French prizes. Loutherbourg then sketched the ships and one or two sailors, and a few of those sketches are very well known (see my Fighting Ships 1750-1850). But the well-known sketches were lifted from two, perhaps three sketchbooks, which are now in a small box, in pieces, in the British Museum. There are actually at least forty sketches he made on his visit, including interviews with the sailors and even a sketched birds-eye plan of the battle. He also jotted down interesting stories, including a final speech made by the captain of La Juste to his ten year-old son….in classic revolutionary style he said ‘learn to fight for your country and always detest tyranny.’ All of this unpublished material will be in my upcoming book The Glorious First of June.